Believe it or not, we are less than a month away from the start of the 2019 college football season. First set of games is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 24th. Though most schools won’t start until the following week (games pick back up on Thursday and are played every day through Monday).
If you haven’t started preparing, now is the time. Before you know it, opening week is going to be here. In fact, Week 1 odds are already out and open for wagering. There’s no doubt in my mind that there are lines to expose.
This is also a great time to get your future wagers in. If you can afford to set some money aside for a few months, NCAAF win totals can provide a great opportunity to build your bankroll.
2019 College Football Predictions: Power 5 and Group of 5 Conferences
For the majority of last season the media was saying how good the Alabama Crimson Tide were and how it was one of the best teams not just of the Nick Saban era, but in recent history. There’s no denying that last year’s Alabama team was elite. They absolutely destroyed teams in the regular-season.
People were basically giving them the title before the playoffs even started. There was all of this focus on Alabama, yet Clemson was having an equally impressive year. I think there’s no question that the Tigers used that as motivation.
Clemson rolled Notre Dame 30-3 in their Semifinal matchup, setting up another showdown with Alabama (defeated Oklahoma 45-34) in the title game. I think by now people were giving the Tigers a shot. However, I don’t think many could have predicted what would transpire. The Tigers embarrassed Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide 44-16.
For years we have penciled Alabama at the top of the pecking order because of not just the talent and coaching on hand, but the track record to go with it. I think it’s safe to add Clemson to that list (Georgia and Oklahoma are knocking on the door).
Speaking of the Sooners, they have produced back-to-back Heisman winners. Kyler Murray followed in the footsteps of Baker Mayfield in 2017. It’s the first time we have had back-to-back Heisman winners since Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush took home the hardware for USC in 2004-05. Not to mention both players went on to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.
Enough about last year, it’s time to turn our attention to this upcoming season. Here’s a quick look at who I have winning each conference. I’ve also included my playoff projections, Power Rankings (Top 25 + more) and future odds.
*Click on link for individual conference previews*
It’s hard to envision a different outcome in the SEC other than the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs meeting in the championship game with a spot in the playoffs on the line. No disrespect to other teams in the league, but it looks like both of these programs are going to be even better in 2019.
As mentioned, it doesn’t matter what Alabama has coming back. They could have 0 returning starters and I would still feel confident in their ability to win the division. The thing is, this year they return a legit Heisman candidate in junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. One that helped re-write the Alabama offensive record book in 2018. He’s got future NFL stars at his disposal at both running back wide receiver. The defense also figures to be stronger.
Georgia might not be viewed on the same pedestal as Alabama, but they had the Crimson Tide on the ropes each of the last two years. I see no reason to think they aren’t going to be able to hang with them in 2019. The Bulldogs have a ton of talent coming back, including a top notch signal caller of their own in Jake Fromm, one who could shine in a more pass-happy offense under OC James Coley.
As hard as it is to pick against Alabama, I think Georgia is primed to win their second SEC title in the last 3 years and get to the playoffs.
That’s not to say it’s a lock that these two will meet in the title game. LSU has the potential to be special with 16 returning starters. They finally got the offense going in 2018 and will be elite on the defensive side of the ball. You also don’t want to sleep on a team like Texas A&M. The Aggies are making up ground in a hurry under second year head coach Jimbo Fisher and while a brutal schedule may get the best of them this year, this might be the team to beat in the West come 2020.
The big Wild Card in the division has to be Auburn. The Tigers will have a defense built around one of the best defensive lines in the country. The big question is can head coach Gus Malzahn get the offense back on track. He’s taking back play-calling duties and it all comes down to whether or not a QB emerges into the playmaker they desperately need.
On the other side of the bracket, Florida will easily be the team to watch out for. The Gators were better than expected in the first year under head coach Dan Mullen and he knows how to develop talent. He’s got a bunch of it in Gainesville and it might not be long before they are back in the national title mix.
SEC West – Alabama (8-0, 12-0)
SEC East – Georgia (7-1, 11-1)
Champion – Georgia
The Big Ten has fallen on some hard times of late. Just when it looked like the conference was closing the gap on the SEC, they have been a major disappointment. The Big Ten will look to avoid a third straight season where they fail to send a team to the playoffs. The conferences also hasn’t won a playoff game since Ohio State won it all in the inaugural season of the playoffs back in 2014.
Last year Ohio State was close and after watching how poor Notre Dame played in their playoff game, you have to wonder if the Buckeyes didn’t deserved that spot. Much like they were punished in 2017 for an explainable 55-24 loss at Iowa, an embarrassing 49-20 defeat at Purdue was all that kept them from a perfect season.
You just have to look at the talent on the roster in Columbus to know that they are a serious contender. The big question is Ryan Day the second coming of Lincoln Riley? Much like what happened in Norman, where legendary Bob Stoops stepped down, Urban Meyer’s time with OHio State came to an end.
It wouldn’t shock me if the Buckeyes came out with a chip on their shoulder and won the conference, but I’m going to roll the dice one more time with Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines. Michigan has been close to taking that next step and they will have all the pieces in place for a special season in 2019. They too have something to prove after ending last year with a 62-39 loss to Ohio State in the regular-season finale (kept them out of the Big Ten title) and a 41-15 loss to Florida in the Peach Bowl.
You also can’t count out Michigan State or Penn State in the West. This has all the makings of one of those dominant Mark Dantonio teams. The Spartans return 17 starters, got a QB they trust and a defense that should be elite. As for Penn State, the Nittany Lions are loaded with talent, they just have a lot of really young guys that might not be ready for the big stage.
You could make a pretty strong case the four best teams in the Big Ten are all in the same division of the conference. That being the four just mentioned in the East.
The West is completely up for grabs and you can make a case for just about every team in the division besides Illinois. My pick to win is Nebraska, as I think Scott Frost is in the midst of something special in Lincoln. However, I also think both Iowa and Wisconsin are teams that could be a lot better than anticipated if a few things develop.
Big 10 East – Michigan (8-1, 11-1)
Big 10 West – Nebraska (6-3, 9-3)
Champion – Michigan
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t think Kyler Murray could have the kind of season he had in 2018. I can remember watching him struggle in limited action with Texas A&M early in his career. I know he would put up better numbers in Lincoln Riley’s offense, just not the kind to win the Heisman.
Now the question becomes, was the last two years a product of player talent (Mayfield and Murray being special players) or was it more of Riley’s system? Turns out we might have to wait on that answer. That’s because Oklahoma landed Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts, who has already been a Heisman contender.
The one thing that has always scared me with the Sooners competing on a national level is their defense. It’s hard to say it didn’t cost them the last two years in the playoffs, as they scored 48 in a loss to Georgia in the 2017 semifinals and 34 last year on Alabama. I still think that unit is not up to par with the other elite teams, but it should be better with 8 starters back.
I just think it would be foolish to pick other team than Oklahoma in the Big 12 right now. However, with that said, every one is waiting on Tom Herman to return Texas to glory. After going just 7-6 in his first year on the job, the Longhorns improved to 10-4. They got a legit QB to run the offense in Sam Ehlinger, but the schedule is not easy and they only bring back 8 starters in total.
My big sleeper in the Big 12 is Baylor. I’m a big fan of Matt Rhule and trust in his ability to build a winner. Just look at how much better this team was in year two than year one. The Bears went from going 1-11 to winning a bowl game and finishing 7-6. The schedule sets up nicely for Baylor in 2019. If they hold serve at home against Oklahoma, Texas and ISU, they are all but a lock to make the Big 12 title game.
Iowa State is a team that deserves some attention. Matt Campbell has completely flipped the script in Ames. The Cyclones aren’t just capable of pulling off an upset anymore. They are capable of winning the conference. Unlike a lot of other teams in the Big 12, ISU plays defense and does so at a high level. If sophomore Brock Purdy develops from a promising freshman campaign, this team will be in the mix come November.
Big 12 Title Game: Oklahoma (7-2, 10-2) vs Baylor (6-3, 9-3)
There’s plenty of people that buy-in to the championship hangover, but there’s no way I’m picking against Clemson in the ACC. Sure the Tigers lose a lot on defense, but there’s a bunch of 5* recruits just waiting for their chance to take the field. The defense might not be as good as it was, but it will still be one of the best. Not that it will need to be to win games. Clemson figures to score at will with 8 starters back, including Heisman frontrunner in sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
I think the only team that could dethrone the Tigers in the Atlantic is Florida State and that’s a big long shot. No way can the Seminoles be as bad as they were in 2018. Not with the talent they have on deck. All eyes will be on the FSU offense and how it looks under new OC Kendal Briles.
The real debate is who will win the wide-open Coastal division. Just about everyone was picking Miami to win that side of the conference in 2018. Instead it was Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech as the only two teams in the division that posted a winning record in conference play. That just speaks volumes to how unpredictable this side has been.
I think Pitt, Virginia Tech, Miami and Virginia all have a strong case. However, I’m going with Justin Fuente and the Hokies. Prior to going 6-7 last year the Hokies had gone 10-4 and 9-4 in the first two seasons under Fuente. Last year the defense was extremely young and ravaged by injuries. They went from allowing 14.8 ppg to 31.0 ppg. This year with 10 starters back, look for Bud Foster’s unit to be one of the most improved in the country.
Miami might be the most talented team in the conference, but I just don’t love how Mark Richt left the program out of the blue. I know people like Manny Diaz, but sometimes great coordinators don’t make great head coaches. It’s a wait and see for me with the Hurricanes.
ACC Atlantic – Clemson (8-0, 12-0)
ACC Coastal – Virginia Tech (7-1, 10-2)
Champion – Clemson
The Pac-12 is hoping that 2019 will be a statement year for conference. Like the Big Ten, the Pac-12 has struggled of late to field a playoff worthy team. While there’s reason to think the conference will be improved as a whole, it’s got a lot of work to do to get that invite.
I will admit that I think they got a realistic chance of getting a team in and that team is Oregon. In his first year on the job, Mario Cristobal got the Ducks to 9-wins. With 17 starters back, including a lot of people’s favorite to be the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft in Justin Herbert, it’s hard to not think Oregon won’t be better in year two under Cristobal.
The fact that I got them going 11-1 speaks volumes to how highly I think of this team, as they have to play road games against Auburn, Stanford, Washington and USC.
We might be sleeping on Chris Petersen and the Huskies. While Washington only brings back 9 starters (just 2 on defense), they are believed to be getting a big upgrade at quarterback with Georgia transfer Jacob Eason filling the void left by Jake Browning. Even though Browning left as the all-time leading passer in school history, he never quite lived up to his potential in Seattle.
Stanford is another team that doesn’t have a lot coming back (9 starters), but could pull off something crazy behind head coach David Shaw and junior quarterback K.J. Costello.
Utah is a popular pick to win the South and deservingly so, but I got a sneaky feeling that USC is going to have quite the bounce back year in 2019. The Trojans basically threw true freshman J.T. Daniels into the fire and he played like a freshen a lot of the times. He still threw for 242.9 yards/game, which was slightly more than Herbert (242.4). I also love the addition of OC Graham Harrell to get the most out of Daniels.
I’ll also be interested to see who head coaches Herm Edwards (Arizona State) and Chip Kelly (UCLA) have in store for year two. We saw the Bruins get better and better as last year went on and it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see Kelly pull off something special this year.
Pac-12 North – Oregon (8-1, 11-1)
Pac-12 South – USC (7-2, 9-3)
Champion – Oregon
UCF has dominated the AAC the past two years, but will be without star quarterback McKenzie Milton (did add Notre Dame transfer Brandon Winbush) and are now two years removed from Scott Frost.
I believe the Knights have come back to the pack a little and thus the American is as wide-open as it’s been. You got multiple teams in both divisions that are thinking conference championship in 2019.
I like Cincinnati to overtake UCF in the East. The Bearcats quietly won 11 games last year. Pretty impressive given they were just 4-8 in 2017. Now in year 3 under head coach Luke Fickell and with 14 starters back, this team is one to watch. I can’t wait for Sept. 7th, as Fickell will take his new team up against his old team in Ohio State. Temple and USF are two other teams in the East to watch out for.
I’m also expecting the Cougars to rise to the top in the West, which figures to be a two way race at the top between them and Memphis. Houston pulled off quite the hire, luring Dana Holgorsen away from West Virginia to be their new head coach. Senior QB D’Eriq King is poised for a monster year.
Don’t sleep on Tulane or SMU. The Green Wave have been improving each year under Willie Fritz and SMU has 16 returning starters, plus add in Texas transfer Shane Buechele at quarterback.
AAC West – Houston (6-2, 8-4)
AAC East – Cincinnati (6-2, 8-4)
Champion – Cincinnati
Notre Dame ran the table and was selected for the 4-team playoff last year. Unfortunately it went very similar to their match with Alabama in the BCS title game in 2012. The Irish got rolled 30-3 by Clemson.
With Ian Book back at quarterback, Notre Dame definitely has the talent to get back to the playoffs. The problem is the schedule. They have to go on the road to face Georgia, Michigan and Stanford, while also hosting USC, Virginia, Va Tech, and BC.
While the Irish are the only Independent with a shot at the playoffs, the big story here is Army. The Black Knights are coming off back-to-back 10+ win seasons and got the talent and schedule to make it 3 in a row.
Best Record – Notre Dame (9-3)
Best Team – Notre Dame (9-3)
Boise State hasn’t dominated the Mountain West like a lot of people expected, but they aren’t the only top dog in the conference. Fresno State and San Diego State have closed the gap big time and we have seen teams like Utah State and Wyoming in the MWC title game the past few years.
With that said, I think this year will be one where everyone is looking up at the Broncos. Boise State has 13 starters back from a 10 win team and there’s a buzz around true freshman QB Hank Bachmeier.
MWC Mountain – Boise State (7-1, 9-3)
MWC West– San Diego State (7-1, 10-2)
Champion – Boise State
I’m excited to see how C-USA plays out in 2019. I see a number of teams in this league that can not just compete with a Power 5 team, but pull of the upset. My favorite to win the conference this year has to be FAU. I’m a big Lane Kiffin fan and the Owls are poised for a big bounce back year after disappointing in 2018. No bigger reason to like FAU than the addition of Florida State transfer Deondre Francois at quarterback. They also added a former Alabama recruit at running back.
C-USA East – FAU (8-0, 10-2)
C-USA West – Southern Miss (6-2, 8-4)
Champion – FAU
The MAC wasn’t very good last year and it’s hard to get excited about the conference in 2019. So many of the talented head coaches that were littered in this league are gone. I just don’t see that Western Michigan type of team that can run the table and maybe pull off an upset or two against the big boys.
With that said, the two teams with the best shot at becoming that team are Toledo and Ohio. My pick of the two would be the Bobcats, as everything is set up for a big season in Athens. Ohio has the best QB in the conference in senior Nathan Rourke, who returns to an offense that put up more than 40 ppg last year.
MAC West – Toledo (7-1, 8-4)
MAC East – Ohio (7-1, 9-3)
Champion – Ohio
It’s going to be interesting to see if Sun Belt powers Troy and Appalachian State can maintain their edge on the rest of the conference. Troy lost head coach Neal Brown to West Virginia and Appalachian State watched their head coach Scott Satterfield sign with Louisville. I think both are going to be strong in 2019, but who knows going forward. If these two powers in the East Division fall, Georgia Southern is ready to emerge.
In the West Division, Arkansas State figures to only need to hold off Louisiana to head back to the Sun Belt title game.
Sun Belt East – Troy (7-1, 9-3)
Sun Belt West – Arkansas State (5-3, 6-6)
Champion – Troy
Playoff Projections & Team Power Rankings (Top 25 + More)
(1) Clemson over (4) Oregon
(2) Georgia over (3) Michigan
(2) Georgia over (1) Clemson
2019 Power Rankings
|8||Ohio State (10-2)|
|9||Notre Dame (9-3)|
|10||Virginia Tech (10-2)|
|13||Texas A&M (8-4)|
|15||Michigan State (9-3)|
|20||Penn State (8-4)|
|21||Iowa State (8-4)|
|29||Florida State (8-4)|
Individual & Team NCAA Football Future Betting Odds
*Click link for full list of odds*
Top Odds to Make Playoffs
Top 10: Heisman Odds
|Player (Position, School)||Odds|
|Trevor Lawrence (QB Clemson)||+260|
|Tua Tagovailoa (QB, Alabama)||+260|
|Jalen Hurts (QB, Oklahoma)||+900|
|Adrian Martinez (QB, Nebraska)||+1200|
|Jake Fromm (QB, Georgia)||+1400|
|Johnathan Taylor (RB, Wisconsin)||+1700|
|D’Andre Swift (RB, Georgia)||+1700|
|Travis Etienne (RB, Clemson)||+2000|
|Sam Ehlinger (QB, Texas)||+2000|
|Justin Herbert (QB,Oregon)||+2200|